Discussion Guide

Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp Title Page

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Questions for Discussion

1. Did Stephanie’s parents make the right decision in sending an eight-year-old Stephanie to see Fran? Is early prevention the key to combating childhood obesity? Would you send your child to Fat Camp if he or she wanted to go? What if he or she didn’t want to go? Or, considering Lea, would you also send along the thinner sibling, or would you split up your children for the summer?

2. Memoirists often struggle with how much of their adult voice and knowledge to interject into the text. Reading through Moose, mark the instances where “adult Stephanie” chimes in during the telling of her adolescent story. Which of these instances helped further the story and enjoyment of the book? Were there any that distracted you or took you out of the moment? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of including such commentary.

3. Consider the role of heritage and religion as it relates to identity. What messages do you think Stephanie received from watching interactions between her Jewish grandmother and half-Puerto Rican, half-Greek mother? What behavior did Stephanie learn from her mother? Show examples of moments where Stephanie duplicated the actions of her mother throughout the book. How much of a role do you think feelings about one’s own heritage and religion impact self-esteem?

4. In chapter seven, when the girls are dressing up Daniel for the pageant, Stephanie admits, “I wanted his hips. Ironically, it’s what I thought of when I thought of feminine: narrow.” In fact, throughout the book, Stephanie describes fat in terms of both masculinity and femininity. She also correlates fat with sexuality and thin with “ladylike” manners. “Thin, petite, small, and narrow—all the things we were not—were feminine. Breasts that made blouses buckle were sexual.” Do you agree with her estimations? Do you think her opinion changed once she became a mother? How is female fat different from male fat? Do you believe fat is a feminist issue?

5. When it comes to the theme of love in the book, is there a hierarchy? Can you love one person of your family more than another, or is “differently” a more fitting expression? Do you think Stephanie’s mother’s alignment with her mother and sister over her husband and children is understandable?

6. Kate seemed to be a reality check for Stephanie. In chapter ten, Stephanie observes, “Kate possessed a strong sense of amor fati, accepting her fate for a fat life.” And Kate argues, “I’m not here to be saved.” What do you think Kate means by this, and do you believe her? Genetics certainly play a part when it comes to body weight, but how do you feel this idea of “amor fati” plays out in the book and in your own life?

7. From the start, we learn that Stephanie is ashamed of her mother. We eventually learn that her mother is also ashamed of herself. Many of us fear turning into our mother. What qualities do you hope to keep and what do you hope to do differently? Is Stephanie’s mother in actuality a symbol of strength, even though from Stephanie’s adolescent perspective she was a pushover and easily manipulated? Stephanie writes that too many mothers want to be their daughter’s friend. How is this reflected in your experience?

8. Stephanie argues with the logic that says, “If you’re fat, it’s just a symptom that you’re not addressing what’s really going on,” arguing that in her life, it’s always been just the opposite. The times in her life when she was her thinnest, she was also at her most miserable. What do you think?

9. Consider the nature of memory. Discuss the choice Stephanie made when in the final chapter of the book she reveals herself as an unreliable narrator. She takes us full circle, back to where the book began, including the full story of what happened the day she was first sent to Fran Levine. Why do you think she chose to do this?

10. For those who’ve already read Stephanie’s first memoir, Straight Up And Dirty, did reading Moose give you better insight into how Stephanie ended up married to “the wasband?” Which book did you like better, and why? If you were to recommend both books to a friend, which would you have them read first?